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Mid-Atlantic Section Helps APS Cover the Map

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There are currently nine APS Sections, organized geographically across most of the United States, and even into parts of Canada. This Fall, a tenth APS Section will make its debut, covering the last unincorporated region, along the Eastern Seaboard. The Mid-Atlantic Section will include five states plus the District of Columbia, a region which encompasses approximately 11 percent of APS members.

The new section will be for physicists based in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Washington DC, as well as most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The region is home to numerous different scientific institutions including major research universities, small liberal arts colleges, a national military academy, the headquarters of dozens of scientific and professional societies, the National Academies, numerous government laboratories and government agencies.

The APS Council is slated to vote on the proposed section’s bylaws at their November 3 meeting. If the bylaws are passed, the section needs 200 members to officially join to become a full-fledged active section. At press time, Council had not yet voted, but passage of the bylaws is expected.

Stephan Schlamminger of NIST spearheaded the effort to set up the new section. He said that after he moved to Maryland from the University of Washington, he missed the networking opportunities the Northwest Section offered, as well as the chance to catch up on different sub-fields in physics at the sectional meetings.  

“You don’t see the broad perspective,” Schlamminger said. “I really miss that here.”

Schlamminger first remarked on the lack of a Mid-Atlantic Section to Beverly Berger, a former chair of physics at Michigan’s Oakland University and NSF program officer. She advised him to do something about it and put him in touch with Charles Clark of NIST and the University of Maryland. Clark helped pull people together in the region to find interim officers while the group sets up and is now Chair of the Nominating Committee. Schlamminger also contacted APS Director of Membership Trish Lettieri who helped him find people to draft the proposed section’s bylaws and email potential members.

Physicists in the Mid-Atlantic region received an email on June 4 asking if they would be interested in joining a new section. When the section’s Organizing Committee met 19 days later to draft their by-laws, they had received more than 250 electronic signatures, passing the 200 signature threshold to prompt a Council vote.

The Mid-Atlantic States have been without their own section in part because there are so many research centers and society headquarters in the region. For many years in APS history, the March and April meetings were both held in the region.

“There’s such a dense population of our members in this area and other opportunities for networking and collaborating there was never a grass roots movement to get [a section] started,” Lettieri said. “No one ever took the initiative to start it because there were other avenues of collaboration.”

Sectional meetings have long been popular with researchers with small travel budgets.

“It will benefit the students in the area to give them the same opportunity as the rest of the country,” Lettieri said. She added that section meetings are often the first meetings where undergraduate students present research, in part because of the low travel costs associated with a close-by meeting.

The organizing committee is gearing up to recruit new members. Next year’s March Meeting will be in Baltimore, and the committee is planning a reception there to raise awareness and attract more local physicists to its ranks.

“We want to get the section up and running, and get more members,” Schlamminger said. “I think it will be a good opportunity to connect scientists and carry out the APS mission in a small region.”

If all goes according to plan, the new section will elect its officers in 2013, and will host its first meeting in the Fall of 2014, likely at Penn State University.

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Editor: Alan Chodos